31 May 2012

Visit upon the world the Lord's blessing!

Feast of the Visitation
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Elizabeth greets Mary in her home, blessing both the expectant virgin and her unborn child, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. . .Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!” Of course, she believed. Mary had been supernaturally prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear, receive, and assent to the Word. She was spared the ravages of original sin in her immaculate conception and given an audience with one of the Father's mightiest messengers, the archangel Gabriel. With all the humility and obedience proper to one whose soul is freed from sin, she stood in the reflected glory of the Lord's angel and said Yes to becoming the Mother of God. If the virgin girl, Mary, is blessed for believing that the Lord's word to her would be fulfilled, how blessed are we when we believe that the Lord's word to us will be fulfilled? With none of her spiritual advantages and without the benefit of an angelic announcement, how blessed are we when we believe that the Lord always makes good on His promises? 

Indeed, simply believing that the Lord will always fulfill His promises is a blessing in itself. But this blessing, as welcomed as it is, is given to us so that it might be worked into a grace capable of transforming not only a single soul but the spirit of a couple, a family, a parish, a nation, an entire people. The blessing of believing on the Lord's promises can bring about the conversion of the world only when those who have received it use it to help the world visit with the Lord. In other words, if we believe that the Lord makes good on His promises, then we must take this blessing out into the world—where we live, work, play—and put it to work for the salvation of souls. Mary—pregnant with the Word—visits Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John. This is the first time in history that a human person has brought the living God to visit another person. The two women visit in the presence of the Word becoming flesh. Elizabeth praises Mary for her faithfulness. John leaps for joy in his mother's womb. And Mary sings her servant-cantical, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” The Feast of the Visitation is the Church's annual reminder that we are flesh becoming the Word and we are vowed to visit the world with the blessings of the Father's promise. 

How do we do this? Paul gives us some solid spiritual advise in his letter to the Romans, “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another. . .Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. . .Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. . .do not be haughty.” Love, serve, rejoice, endure, persevere, and bless. Be: zealous, fervent, hospitable, generous, sincere, and humble. This is how we take a blessing into the world and visit upon the world the blessings of the Lord. If we cannot or will not sing out with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” then why should anyone in the world want to hear about the Lord's blessings? If our rejoicing is indistinguishable from despairing, and if our believing is no different from the world's, then why would anyone in the world leap for joy upon hearing about the Lord's blessing? We are blessed to believe in the Lord's promises. How much more blessed are we to visit His blessings upon a world starving for His saving Word?

Give me feedback in the combox, please!


  1. The final paragraph was a terrific way to close, upbeat but with a definite challenge-question. I had a bit of trouble following the sentence structure, at times, in the first two paragraphs - this is probably an example of a spoken homily that doesn't translate as easily into a written one. Once I slowed down and concentrated on each word, all was clear and easily understood; but I couldn't just read through it without a bit of effort. Maybe if you would write more slowly, those of us originally from Alabama won't have to read so slowly ;-)!

    1. Oh, Shelly. . .I didn't you know you were from Alabama, darlin'. Had I known that I would've written very S.L.O.W.L.Y.

      Fr. Philip Neri, OP (Mississippian Smart Aleck)


    2. Ha! Thanks for the early morning smile - I haven't been called "darlin'" since we moved from the South 15 years ago. Pacific Northwesterners just don't know how to use terms of endearment, and their sense of humor is somewhat lacking.
      But now that I know you are from Mississippi....

    3. Down here in Nawlins' everybody is darlin', baby, sugar, sweetie. . .just like home!